While a sea of orange caps went wild in
the stand, Stephen Autridge cast his mind back more than 35 years as
Gingernuts crossed the line first in the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand
Derby at Ellerslie today.
On Boxing Day 1981 Autridge had
experienced the low point of his time in racing when his mount, New
Zealand Derby favourite Altitude, suffered a catastrophic haemorrhage
midway through the classic and died minutes later.
Today he stood in the same birdcage that
he had trod so sadly through all those years ago and fought back tears
that told a quite different story.
“1981. In some ways it seems a long time
ago but to be standing here now after finally winning the Derby, it sure
takes you back,” said the wistful trainer, who prepares Gingernuts in
partnership with Jamie Richards.
For others in the Gingernuts camp, any
tears that flowed were pure joy. Blair Alexander, who had joined forces
with Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis to syndicate the $42,500 Ready
to Run Sale purchase, was the toast of the town.
Through his workplace at the Auckland
advertising agency FCB, Alexander drew in a bunch of workmates and
friends who today sported tangerine caps with bold blue print declaring
“G-Nuts” as the crowd favourite for today’s classic.
“With a bit of luck I might get a pay
rise,” declared Alexander, who is the partner of former Te Akau stable
jockey Matt Cameron. “No this is great, I don’t think I’ll be taking my
cap off tonight!”
Cameron was Gingernuts’ jockey when he
hit form in a lowly Rating 65 race at Te Teko in late January, and
Johnathan Parkes was on board for the Iffraaj gelding’s amazing
first-to-last win in the Avondale Guineas two weeks ago.
But today the responsibility lay with
recently reappointed Te Akau jockey Opie Bosson and he rode the type of
race that he’s renowned for, settling the chestnut gelding sixth one out
from the rail before lodging his bid at just the right time.
While others such as the favourite Savile
Row were battling on the home turn, Gingernuts was just getting
serious. He swept up wide with 250 metres to run, lay in for a few
strides and then surged forward to collar the Australian raider Rising
Red and draw away to score by a length.
“I knew I had a lot of horse underneath
me and I never spent a penny throughout,” said Bosson, who had ridden
Mongolian Khan to victory in the same race two years ago. “He did it
easily in the end.
“It’s good to win the race for Te Akau
and to get these big results is what we need. It’s awesome for Steve,
who has been my number one supporter right from day one.
“Whenever I’ve been down he’s been the one to ring me and cheer me up. I’m stoked to do it for him.”
Bosson, who is Autridge’s godson and
served his apprenticeship with him during his first stint with Te Akau,
rode four winners on today’s Derby programme. In late January he also
won the only other $1 million race on the New Zealand calendar, the
Karaka Million on the Fortuna/Te Akau filly Melody Belle.
Hall Of Fame, who was the other 2015
Ready to Run Sale purchase made by Ellis, provided the same combination
with a Group One win in mid-January when winning the Levin Classic at